Stratford-on-Avon, where Shakespeare was born, is now one of the most popular tourist centres. But it was not so many years ago. In the 18th century only a few relics of Shakespeare were left — his tomb, New Place (a large house which was built in place of Shakespeare’s own house), the mulberry tree that he had planted, and his birthplace.
People from London and other places came to see these relics. Most of them came to New Place where they wanted to see the famous mulberry tree in the garden. The owner of New Place wasn’t much interested in Shakespeare. He didn’t like the fact that so many visitors came to his house asking to see the mulberry tree. So in 1756 he cut down the tree and his life became quiet. But it didn’t last long. The people who came to Stratford-on-Avon to see Shakespeare’s tree at first were surprised, then they got so angry that the owner of New Place had to leave Stratford.
After Stratford lost one of the most famous relics of Shakespeare, the city fathers decided to do something to attract people there. They asked the greatest actor of the time David Garrick to organize a festival in Stratford.
Garrick planned to do it in the first week of September, 1769. He wanted the festival to be the greatest outdoor festival staged in England.
At six o’clock in the morning of Wednesday September 6 the festival was opened. Many people came to Stratford. The first day was successful, and Garrick was happy. On the second day it rained hard. The second-day evening ended as it began — in the rain.
On the third day all the people left Stratford, Garrick returned to London very sad. But his festival was the beginning of a tradition. Stratford is now famous for its Shakespeare festivals. Every year a lot of people come to Stratford for the Festival season which lasts from April to September.